NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – A coast-to-coast drive by senior captain Christine Clark propelled Harvard women's basketball into the second round of the WNIT Thursday night, as the Crimson edged Iona 90-89 at Hynes Athletics Center.
With the win, the Crimson (22-7) registered the most victories since 2002-03 (22). Harvard dished out 28 assists, tied for the seventh-most in program history. The Crimson tied a season low with six turnovers.
Junior forwards Temi Fagbenle and Erin McDonnell paced the Crimson, each surpassing the 20-point plateau with 26 and 24 points, respectively. Fagbenle shot 13-of-18 from the floor and added eight boards and four assists.
McDonnell surpassed her personal best, hitting 10-of-13 from the field and dishing out a career-high seven assists. Senior guard Jasmine Evans posted a solid all-around game, recording 16 points, six rebounds, a personal-best seven assists and two steals. The seven assists marked the most helpers for a Crimson player since Miriam Rutzen on Feb. 15, 2013 against Penn (seven).
Iona (26-6) was led by Damika Martinez with 29 points on 12-of-21 shooting, including five three pointers. The Gaels kept pace with the Crimson by connecting on 17-of-34 triples.
Iona earned an early footing seven minutes into the game, ripping off a 10-0 spurt to hold an 18-10 advantage. The Crimson responded, scoring 13 unanswered to swing the momentum and hold a 25-20 lead at the 8:14 mark. McDonnell capped the run with a step-back jumper from the corner and a triple on the wing.
Pushing its lead to seven, 34-27, Clark knocked down a jumper with 2:20 before the break. The Gaels continued to chip away, bringing the score to within one before McDonnell dished to AnnMarie Healy to convert a lay-up just before the break. Harvard, shooting 40.0 percent from the field and assisting on 12-of-16 buckets, headed into the locker room up 36-33.
The Crimson burst out of the gates in the second half, scoring the first eight points – including the first five by McDonnell – to hold a 44-33 lead. Harvard held its largest lead of the game with 13 minutes remaining as Fagbenle dropped in a second-chance bucket.
A barrage of triples by Iona – six of its next 11 baskets – pulled the Gaels within two, 77-75, with 6:31 to play. Iona pulled ahead by as many as five, holding an 84-79 advantage with just over three minutes to play.
A triple by McDonnell and a lay-in by Fagbenle knotted the score at 84-84 at the 1:42 mark. The two squads traded baskets before Clark dropped in two free throws with just over 11 seconds to play. Iona's Aleesha Powell drove the length of the court, converting an old-fashioned three-point play. With 6.3 seconds remaining, Clark controlled the ball and dropped in a lay-up with no time remaining to give Harvard the win.
The Crimson advances to the second round for the third-straight year and will face Rutgers.
Game Notes: With the win, the Crimson posted 22 wins for the first time since 2002-03 (22-5). Four players posted double-figures for the first time since Feb. 15 against Cornell. Two players posted 20-plus points for the first time since Feb. 15 against Cornell. Erin McDonnell broke her career high with 24 points, her 13th game in double-figures this season and first career game with 20-plus points. Temi Fagbenle registered 26 points, her sixth game passing the 20-point plateau and 21st game in double-figures. With 16 points, Christine Clark sits at fourth all-time at Harvard with 1,700 points. Clark scored in double-figures for the 97th time in her career and 24th time this season. Jasmine Evans registered her 14th game in double-figures with 16 points, adding six rebounds and seven assists. The 17 threes allowed by Harvard marked the most since at least 2000-01 (stats before 2000-01 are incomplete). The seven assists by Evans and McDonnell marked the most helpers for a Crimson player since Miriam Rutzen on Feb. 15, 2013 against Penn (seven). Harvard dished out 28 assists, tied for the seventh-most in program history. The Crimson tied a season low with six turnovers.